Your Ultimate Guide to Brazilian Wedding Traditions
Millions of people exchange nuptials around the world every year, and each wedding is different. One of the main differentiators is the wedding traditions each couple incorporates. Brazilian wedding traditions are one of many that include rich and colorful practices rooted in their faith and love for celebrations.
As of 2022, the Portuguese-speaking South American country has a population of over 200 million people. Many of those individuals are likely to carry one or more of their traditions with them no matter where they are in the world. Whether you're attending an upcoming Brazilian wedding or planning a wedding of your own, here's a primer on Brazilian wedding traditions according to Janine Closs of J. Closs Events and Weddings, who specializes in Brazilian weddings and events.
A Brief History of Brazilian Weddings
Closs, a Brazilian native with over 15 years of experience in the industry, says that Brazilian wedding traditions are rooted in Brazilian creativity. She cites Brazilian Carnival, an annual festival held before Ash Wednesday, as a primary example of this creativity.
"We have a very festive carnival where the Brazilian people can use a lot of their creativity and have all these kinds of parties," she says. "And in some ways we can bring this creativity for weddings and social events."
Some of these traditions may also be inspired by the Catholic religion and related practices. Brazil is the largest Roman Catholic country in the world. As of 2010, about two-thirds or 65% of the country were said to be of the Catholic faith.
Brazilian Pre-Wedding Traditions
When preparing for Brazilian weddings, many of the traditions and customs center around pampering the bride and getting her ready to become a wife. During this time, family is close by and gifts are in abundance.
Less Emphasis on Rings
Engagement and wedding rings are a big deal in the U.S. but not so much in Brazil. The couple usually goes out and buys their rings together, places the rings on their right hand and then shares the news with loved ones. When we say "they", that means that both the bride and groom wear an engagement ring, unlike in American traditions where only the bride wears one.
When exchanging vows on the wedding day, the couple switches their rings to the left hand instead of exchanging a second ring. By doing this, they're signaling that they've transitioned from an engaged to married couple.
Their rings are also often plain. That means no bling as they traditionally rock gold wedding bands without diamonds.
American weddings are notorious for having bridal showers. The Brazilian equivalent is a kitchen shower. During the kitchen shower, the bride-to-be is showered with gifts and love by friends and family. A distinction is that it's normal for a groom and his friends to attend the event too. As with bridal showers, the bride or her friends may decide to plan the kitchen shower.
Custom Wedding Dress Hem
Looking forward to seeing the bride throw a bouquet? A more Brazilian-style tradition is the custom hem. How it works is that a Brazilian bride gets a seamstress to sew a hem that contains several names of single ladies under her wedding dress. The only people who'll be able to see this list are the bride and people actively looking for it.
Just like a wedding guest catching the bouquet, Brazilians believe it's a way to bring single people good luck.
Brazilian Wedding Ceremony
The wedding ceremony is usually part of a multi-day event and it's full of music, religious elements and sweets. The bride and groom center elements of the Catholic religion within the ceremony and guests wish them luck on their new journey as husband and wife.
Getting Married in a Catholic Church
A majority of Brazilians tend to be Catholic, so many couples will likely get married in a Catholic church. To get married within the Catholic church, you often have to prove you're Catholic. This could mean becoming a regular at the church you plan to get married in, getting to know the clergy, undergoing wedding counseling, or following any other protocols they ask of you. You can also expect the ceremony to last an hour or more, as with any Catholic church service.
Guests are said to show up and out when they attend Brazilian weddings. Cross says guests tend to dress like they're going to a gala and mini dresses aren't usually allowed.
"All the women got very well-prepared and very well dressed for the occasion."
Madrinhas and Padrinhos
This Brazilian wedding custom is similar to that of bridesmaids and groomsmen, but it's slightly different. Madrinha and padrinho means godfather and godmother and they play the role of a support system or guides. Couples or pairs can stand in and fill these shoes. Keep in mind that they don't have to be a romantic couple–instead they could be friends or family members.
A Fashionably Late Bride Arrival
In Brazilian wedding culture, it's bad luck for the bride to see the groom in her wedding gown before she walks down the aisle. For this reason, they usually get ready at different locations and the bride shows up fashionably late. The day before her arrival, she receives pampering from loved ones so she can show up looking radiant and well rested on the wedding day.
Uncoordinated Bridal Party
In many Western weddings, coordination is important, especially when it comes to the bridesmaids. They tend to wear coordinated dresses at the bride's request. Brazilians do things differently in their case–mismatched dresses are popular. Bridesmaids may all agree to wear different brightly colored dresses, although they may vary in design. The same usually applies to the groomsmen in terms of mismatching and wearing uncoordinated tuxedos or suits.
Incorporating Natural Elements
Spiritual folks may enjoy this aspect of Brazilian wedding ceremonies as they incorporate three natural elements of water, sand or fire. This happens while the couple exchanges vows and can be done in various ways. For instance, the couple could take two separate containers of sand and pour it into a single container to signify the joining of two becoming one. Lighting a candle could be a way to incorporate fire and ringing a wind chime could represent the air element.
Some cultures jump the broom as a newly married couple. A Brazilian wedding tradition is to throw rice at the new couple to invite love, joy and success into this new chapter of their lives.
Brazilian Reception Traditions
The wedding reception is the last leg of a Brazilian wedding and it can go from dusk to dawn. Guests can expect to be on their feet dancing for hours on end and to partake in customs like bidding for the groom's tie.
Cutting the Groom's Tie
The groom's tie is somewhat significant in Brazilian wedding traditions as they cut it into little pieces and then auction off each piece to guests. The funds gathered can be used for whatever the new couple wants, oftentimes to contribute to their honeymoon. The tie cutting often takes place after the wedding ceremony and is officiated by a groomsmen or family member during the reception.
Reception Until Sunrise
Wedding receptions can last for any amount of time, but Brazilians keep it going until the sun comes up. This isn't an adult-only affair either—kids can usually partake in the festivities too. You'll hear the DJ or live band playing upbeat music throughout the night, so be prepared to hit the dance floor and two-step the night away. You may hear samba, a Brazilian music genre, playing at some point, too. If the party lasts until the next day, that wouldn't be unheard of.
Brazilian Traditional Wedding Food, Drinks and Desserts
Parties are a huge part of Brazilian culture, so naturally food is also. If you have a sweet tooth, expect to be pleasantly satisfied by the array of delicacies and desserts they'll have on display during the wedding reception.
A common Brazilian wedding tradition is to have a sweets table, which is similar to a dessert table at American weddings. The table will comprise several Brazilian desserts for guests to indulge in. Those who are unfamiliar with Brazilian desserts can expect staples like brigadeiro—a fudge ball made with butter, sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and chocolate sprinkles. There is also bolo de rolo, pave, arroz doce and beijinho or coconut brigadeiro. Bem casados, which are Brazilian wedding cookies—with dulce de leche at the center of two small pieces of sponge cake—are likely to make an appearance too. Lastly, the wedding cake is also distributed for guests to indulge in.
To thank the couple's guests for coming, Brazilian weddings offer lembrancinhas, also known as keepsakes. These are essentially wedding favors that are supposed to bring the newlyweds good luck. Lembrancinhas are often personalized and can be sweets like cake, or gifts like wine glasses, for instance.
Since Brazilian weddings can extend till the crack of dawn, they've made it a tradition to offer their guests late-night food, known as dawn snacks. This could include potatoes, popcorn, burgers or anything else the newly-married couple thinks their wedding party may enjoy after partying all night.